Steerpike

Boris Johnson’s Israel entanglement

Boris Johnson's Israel entanglement
Boris Johnson pictured on his Israel trip when Mayor of London in 2015. Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images.
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Over Christmas, Steerpike was just one of those enjoying the memoirs of doughty Brexit street-fighter Mark Francois. Some 4,000 copies have now been sold, according to the Essex MP, whom Mr S encountered at a favourite Westminster haunt last week. 

And book sales are not the only cause for the self-styled 'Spartan' to be celebrating, as Francois (successfully) proposed on New Years' Eve to longtime girlfriend Olivia Sanders, the mayor of Brentwood and one half of the Posh and Becks of Essex politics. What better way to mark the first anniversary of the end of the Brexit transition period? 

One story which appears to have eluded both Mr S and the rest of Fleet Street though was the tale in Francois's book of how future PM Boris Johnson once nearly found himself on the wrong end of the Israeli Defence Forces. The-then Henley MP accompanied Francois and a little known backbencher called George Osborne on a trip to Israel shortly after the trio were first elected in 2001. 

Arriving in the aftermath of a suicide bomb going off in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market, Johnson desperately sought an interview with the deceased bomber's mother before accompanying an inspection of Israel's 'security wall' in the West Bank. Walking up to it, the Old Etonian performed an 'impromptu test,' beginning to shake the rattling fence and exclaiming 'So what happens if I do this then?'

Second later, a tooled-up jeep containing four muscle-bound Israeli soldiers armed to the teeth came hurling over the ridge, with an Israeli Sergeant leaping out to demand 'Who grabbed the bloody fence?'  The others bravely pointed to Boris and declared 'He did,' prompting an expletive-fuelled tirade. According to Francois 'judging by the initial outraged expression on the Sergeant's face, Boris was lucky not to be shot.'

Ironically Osborne was later quoted claiming that the trip was what made Boris a 'lifelong friend of Israel.' Still, Johnson appears to bear no grudges over his brush with death, telling a recent Conservative Friends of Israel meeting of that:

Raucous evening in Tel Aviv where I think we danced on the tables and all sorts of other things took place and in spite of the warnings I have had from time to time that Mossad still possesses the kompromat it is — it's a joke by the way, I think — it is a miracle these photographs have never appeared – unless Mossad is keeping them for some long-term strategic purpose.

Mr S can only imagine what they could be...